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The Salvation Army Australia, Eastern Territory was one of two autonomous territories of this world-wide Christian Church in Australia. Its international headquarters are in London, England. The Eastern Territory comprised the Salvation Army in New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory. (South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory made up the Salvation Army Southern Territory.) In Australia, since 1882, the Salvation Army have established and run many institutions, programs and services for children. They ran children’s Homes, reformatories and maternity Homes around Australia and conducted adoption, probation, child migrant settlement and fostering schemes.
In 2018 the Salvation Army unified its Southern and Eastern Territories. In 2019, the Salvation Army (also known as The Salvos) continues to provide a range of community services in Australia, including out-of-home care for children and young people, aged care and family support services.

From 1880 until 1907, the Salvation Army’s operations in Australia were conducted by the Australasian Territory. The Australasian Territory comprised Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga. In 1907, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga became a separate territory from the Salvation Army Australian Territory. The Australian Territory was split into the Southern and Eastern Territories in 1921, a structure still in place in 2018. A project to unify the territories of the Salvation Army in Australia – ‘Australia One’ – was announced in March 2016.

The Salvation Army was founded in London in 1865. The church had established itself in Sydney by 1882. In the 1890s, the Salvation Army began establishing its first institutions for children in the Eastern Territory, including the Paradise Boys’ Industrial Colony (established in 1897 and later known as the Manly Boys’ Probationary Home) in Sydney, and industrial schools for girls and boys in Riverview, Queensland.

The Salvation Army also established maternity homes in the 1890s, such as the Maternity Home Breakfast Creek in Queensland, and the Bathurst Maternity and Rescue Home in New South Wales. The Salvation Army was active in the adoption of children from their maternity Homes and hospitals. Many of the maternity Homes were not closed until the 1980s and 1990s.

The period of the Australian Territory, up until the split into Southern and Eastern Territories in 1921, was a time of expansion for the Salvation Army’s network of children’s institutions and maternity Homes. Most of them were large institutions for children. There was another peak in expansion from the 1940s to the 1960s. These Salvation Army Homes were progressively closed down from the mid-1970s into the early 1980s. The Salvation Army continued to provide out-of-home care for children and young people, through other models such as residential care and foster care. It also offered a Family Tracing Service for people who experienced adoption, foster care, state wardship or institutional care, which closed in 2018.

The Salvation Army was also involved in child migration schemes in the twentieth century, its most active period sending children and young men from Britain to Australia was during the 1920s. During this period, child and youth migrants were sent to the Salvation Army’s Riverview Training Farm in Queensland. From the 1940s, child migrants of school age were placed in Salvation Army institutions in New South Wales including Bexley and Gill Boys’ Homes and Arncliffe and Canowindra Girls’ Homes. St Joseph’s Orphanage, Neerkol was another Queensland institution that received post-war child migrants. In the post-war period, older boys were sent to Riverview in Queensland. The Riverview Training Farm was condemned in a report from 1956, by a British team of inspectors sent to Australian institutions housing child migrants (known as the Ross Fact-Finding Mission).

From the late 1990s, government inquiries including the Forde Inquiry in Queensland and the Senate’s Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care heard criticism of the Salvation Army and its treatment of children in its Homes.

In the ‘Forgotten Australians’ report (2004), the Committee stated that:

the overwhelming majority of submissions to this inquiry from ex-residents of Salvation Army institutions in all States reported negative experiences in these institutions, often citing cases of extreme forms of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. The Committee believes that there has been a notable reluctance by the Salvation Army to acknowledge past practices, in particular the nature and extent of abuse in its institutions.

The Salvation Army subsequently issued an apology to former residents of its children’s Homes:

From 1894 to the 1970s The Salvation Army operated children’s homes around Australia. The Salvation Army deeply regrets that not all the children in its care received the love and protection they deserved. Some of the children experienced great fear living with rigid and harsh discipline. Some became victims of physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse. The Salvation Army acknowledges its failure with those children. The Salvation Army offers all persons who were hurt its unreserved apology.

The Salvation Army held apology ceremonies at Gill Memorial Boys’ Home in Goulburn, NSW in 2006; at Riverview Home for Boys and Boys Home, Indooroopilly in Queensland in 2007, and at Bexley Boys’ Home in NSW in 2007.

In December 2010, the international leader of the Salvation Army issued an apology to former residents of its children’s Homes in Australia.

In February 2014, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held a public hearing in Sydney into the experience of former child residents at institutions operated by the Salvation Army Eastern Territory (Case Study 05). Another hearing into the handling of claims of child sexual abuse by the Salvation Army was held in Sydney in March-April 2014 (Case Study 10).

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